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Referendum: Premier must champion the vote

December 13, 2013

A quick response (via Puerto Vallarta) on Justine Hunter’s story in The Globe. Key quote:

Ms. Clark said the referendum would take place next November in conjunction with municipal elections and she won’t engage in shaping the outcome.

“The people will decide. People will need to do their homework to make sure they get the answer that is right for them, but I’m not going to try to decide for people what their answer should be.”

No, no, no. She mustn’t opt out. This is, after all, her idea.

More importantly, the future of the region – the province’s economic engine and job generator – is at stake.

But her own Minister has given the essential reason why the Premier must be involved, why her political capital must be spent to achieve a win.

(Transportation Minister Todd Stone) said … “It is imperative to get this right, to win this referendum.”  (He) reviewed the past 63 transit-funding referendums held across North America and found three-quarters of them won the required public support for more spending. … Those transit referendums that were successful “were largely run like political campaigns, with a semi-co-ordinated attempt to get the vote out.”

Precisely.  All political representatives, at all levels – municipal, regional, provincial – will have to be united and committed, pulling together, and led by a strong leader determined to achieve victory.  If the Premier says, ‘well no, it’s really all up to the people, don’t expect me to take a position,’ then why should any other politician?

Why should a mayor, for instance, facing a tight election with a ‘No more taxes’ challenger, spend political capital defending TransLink, arguing for a significant tax increase that may not even directly benefit the voters in their part of the region – while the leader who imposed all this on us is sitting it out in Victoria, abdicating responsibility for the future of half the province’s population and its economy.

If the Province’s first minister isn’t going to lead this ‘political campaign’ to get a yes, then one can only assume she is perfectly happy with a no.

And Todd Stone is talking bafflegab.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. Ken Hardie permalink
    December 13, 2013 7:24 pm

    About ten years ago, I attended a conference on transit initiatives sponsored by the American Public Transit Association. In their analysis of successful referenda, they said two conditions need to be present: first, the agency has to have a public approval rating of at least 66%, either in terms of its general performance or specifically for the initiative; secondly, it must have a political champion.

    TransLink has not had a political champion as a Board chair since George Puil. Since then, it’s been quite the opposite. Couple that with the disingenuous behavior of TransLink’s so-called ‘critics’, and Minister Stone (who is at least making the right noises), faces a pretty daunting task. All the more daunting if his boss isn’t on-side.

    • December 18, 2013 4:06 pm

      What on earth does the former PR flack from TransLink mean by “disingenuous behaviour of TransLink’s so-called ‘critics’ “?

      TransLink is not above criticism. It is far from perfect and would be a much better organization if it were democratically accountable to the people of the region it is supposed to serve. While many of its problems stem from the paucity of its funding, some of them have to be laid at the feet of its management and others at those of the responsible provincial politicians. The present governance structure is a mess and is solely due to Kevin Falcon. But the shortfall of revenues is due in part to decisions such as the adoption of revenue risk for the P3 Golden Ears bridge. I think I know who took the fall for that one. But it certainly does not match up to anyone’s idea of representative and responsible government.

      Ken, you cannot expect the long suffering “customers” to be cheerleaders when they have been so shabbily treated. Anyone who had an employer pass, or who relies on handyDART has every right to be furious. And people who get passed up by full buses and trains every day are not going to be happy either.

      • Ken Hardie permalink
        December 18, 2013 4:49 pm

        Stephen, unless TransLink can make more buses, more drivers, more fuel, etc. materialize out of thin air, then who should customers and the public be mad at? Who’s fault is it that they have been ‘shabbily treated’ in these regards? To be mad at TransLink for failing customers in a growing region is like inviting a couple of teenagers to live with you, then blaming the fridge because it’s always empty.

        As for disingenuous critics, the so-called ‘Canadian Taxpayers Federation’ (all five members) are at the top of the list. They would have you believe that all would be well if the CEO and execs took a pay cut, but you and I know that this is nothing but a load of meadow muffins.

        Most critics prang away at issues that are totally contained within administration costs…which represent 13 % of total expenditures. Audit after audit has not found the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to grow the system to where it should be.

        If it’s all about the political decision-making, then again, it’s not about TransLink but the governance structure. And you lit up the one responsible for that.

        By the way, rather than ‘former PR flack’, I prefer ‘grumpy old bugger’ – that puts you and me in the same class ;o)

  2. mezzanine permalink
    December 14, 2013 2:33 pm

    If the premier is seen as a champion of a pro-vote, then some (many?) may vote against a translink expansion out of spite.

    George Puil was a champion of translink, but it was not without cost.

    http://edocs.lib.sfu.ca/cgi-bin/Cartoons?CartoonID=2021

  3. December 15, 2013 12:28 pm

    I can imagine a united front among the mayors, coordinating a get-out-the vote effort, given the stakes of a failed referendum.

    The problem is that the Province doesn’t seem to be bothering to talk to the mayors about what the referendum will actually contain. How can they plan a strategic get-out-the-vote effort if they don’t know what’s being asked? Is it purely the Premier’s office who will dictate the format and wording? At what point will this actually be disclosed or finalized? At what point does the lack of a clear wording or question to the referendum become a cause for cynicism about the whole exercise?

    Who is in a position to actually demand the Province follows through with providing the necessary information in advance?Anyone?

  4. December 15, 2013 10:46 pm

    What % of bus riders voted NDP ? I suspect 75%+. What % of car drivers voted Liberals ?

    I can understand that Christie Clarke’s voting base is not transit users in the Lower Mainland, so I can understand why she is rather luke warm in her support here.

    • Ken Hardie permalink
      December 18, 2013 4:53 pm

      Thomas, you’ve illustrated a critical point. If I’m a driver, why should I care about transit? But then again, why should I care about the roads I don’t use? We need to start thinking about the transportation system as a ‘system’ – where all the infrastructure and the modes are needed in the proper balance for they whole system to work.

    • David Godin permalink
      December 19, 2013 8:09 am

      A perfect example of how drivers benefit from transit is the George Massey Tunnel. The Ministry of Transportation’s own numbers show that 1% of vehicle trips through the tunnel are transit buses, however these buses carry 26% of the people who use the tunnel. In the absence of that transit service presumably vehicle use of the tunnel would increase by a substantial amount as would-be transit users have no choice but to drive.

  5. David permalink
    December 20, 2013 1:44 am

    My first impression, that the Premier invented the referendum so someone else could take the blame, is looking more and more true as the days go by. Not funding transit properly is going to wreak havoc on the region, but she can say it’s not her fault that the people made the decision.
    In fact she’ll try to deflect blame for the existence of the referendum in the first place (despite it being her idea) by saying that the people voted for it by electing her government. She’s not the brightest in the class, but she’s got the thickest coating of political Teflon west of Toronto.
    I don’t see much hope for the city in the coming years. Mayor Bikelane and his crowd of green washed puppets for big development will likely be ousted by the original puppets for big development come November. The NPA actually campaigned for better transit last time around, but much of their more progressive membership has jumped ship or given up on politics so it could be a real old school “build it and they’ll drive here” group that runs city hall in 2015.

    • December 20, 2013 11:12 pm

      You’re right. car is king in Vancouver, and will for many years. Investment in transit is critical, as is road pricing, increased levies on engines size, parking fees by length of vehicles and more pedestrian zones / less throughroads on shopping streets like Robson, Granville, 4th or 10th.

      10th needs a dedicated bus lane in rush hour (say 6:30 to 10 am) and 4 to 6 pm until a subway to UBC is built underneath 10th.

      Seeing the Christmas madness downtown is nuts. 4 lanes of cars (ca. 12 meters) and 3 meters for pedestrians. This is a “green” city ?

      Have Christy Clarke, or some of the mayors or councilors ever been to some Asian or European cities and seen their transit system ?

    • Dejan K permalink
      December 25, 2013 7:51 pm

      That about sums up our situation David…Well put…

    • January 2, 2014 12:50 pm

      Transit and overpaid civil servants have to be seen in the same light. We cannot willy-nilly hand over more money to governments or quasi-governments like TransLink. Christy Clark was elected on a pro-growth, keep-deficits-low platform.

      yes, we need investments in public transit, but we first and foremost need to keep public sector unions and their often inflated wages in check.

      That is why Rob Ford in Toronto get elected, and might even get re-elected despite his drug/swearing/drinking issues.

      Related article: http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/04/15/the-new-upper-class/

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